Montana News

Jun 11, 2013 8:42 AM by MTN News - Billings

PPL, Montana agree to upgrade Billings power plant

BILLINGS - An agreement was announced Monday between PPL Montana and the State Department of Environmental Quality that will mean less SO2 emissions in the Yellowstone Valley in the future, but it does not mean PPL has a change of plans for its aging Corette power plant.

The legal agreement calls for PPL to install $10 million of new pollution controls at its Billings coal-fired power plant so that it can comply with state ambient air standards that include tighter controls on S02 emissions.

But David Hoffman, PPL's governmental affairs director, says it's highly unlikely that the company will alter it's decision to mothball the Corette plant.

"There would have to be some pretty radical changes in the economic environment in order to reverse that mothballing decision," said Hoffman.

"But if it was reversed, this settlement then goes to the S02 emissions in Yellowstone County, and would certainly reduce the amount of S02 put into the atmosphere," explained Hoffman.

PPL announced plans last fall that it planned to mothball the Corette Plant beginning in April of 2015, due to the cost of meeting new EPA air quality standards.

Monday's agreement with the state, means PPL would have to invest as much as $50 million in the 45-year-old plant in order to meet both state and federal pollution requirements.

PPL also agreed to pay the state a $250,000 penalty for past violations of state air quality standards as part of Monday's deal.

Among those reacting to the settlement, was the Northern Plains Resource Council, which has long fought for tougher air and water quality standards in Montana.

Eileen Morris, a volunteer with the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, and a life long Billings resident, says it's too bad the Corette Plant wasn't cleaned up years ago.

"People like me who have suffered from asthma, would have had it a little bit easier over the years, and my friend Nettie who died of an asthma attack due to S02, perhaps it would have saved her life," Morris said.

Morris recalled when she first got involved with the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council in 1979, Billing was rated third *worst city in the nation" for SO2 pollution.

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